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CAM Featured Alumnus: Alan Hastings

Class of 1977 (Advisor: Simon A. Levin)
Distinguished Professor, Department of Environmental Science & Policy, University of California, Davis

Awards/Honors:

  • Member, National Academy of Sciences, Elected 2015
  • Fellow, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Elected 2005
  • Robert H. MacArthur Award, Ecological Society of America, 2006
  • Faculty Research Lecturer, University of California, Davis, 2006-07)
  • Fellow, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, Elected 2013
  • Fellow, Ecological Society of America, Elected 2012
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Elected 2005
  • Honorary Editor, Journal of Mathematical Biology 2011-

I still fondly remember my time at CAM, long ago and cannot envision a better graduate school experience. The opportunity to immerse myself both in a broad range of mathematics and in ecology was superb preparation for my subsequent career. For current and future students I cannot emphasize enough the importance of resisting the temptation to specialize too early. That way you can avoid the mistake of having a technique in search of a problem. No matter what career path you take, you will need to keep learning and you will almost certainly be surprised by the directions you take. Seeing connections between apparently disparate areas is one of the most enjoyable and productive aspects of scientific progress. A recent example of this from my own work is finding a connection between the Ising model from statistical physics and spatial population dynamics in ecology. Yet just being broad is not enough. Together with the advice not to specialize I would also say that you also have to be sure to develop sufficient depth and understanding in one or more areas -- which may sound contradictory but really is not. You will be busy, but you will enjoy the challenges.

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